The Talloires Declaration was created in October 1990 in Talloires, France. Jean Mayer, then president of Tufts University in Boston, called together 22 other university presidents and chancellors from universities throughout the world in order to express their concerns regarding the state of the world as well as prepare a document that identified key environmental actions that institutions of higher learning must take to prepare.
According to their organization, University Leaders for a Sustainable Future (ULSF), "Recognizing the shortage of specialists in environmental management and related fields, as well as the lack of comprehension by professionals in all fields of their effect on the environment and public health, this gathering defined the role of the university in the following way: "Universities educate most of the people who develop and manage society's institutions. For this reason, universities bear profound responsibilities to increase the awareness, knowledge, technologies, and tools to create an environmentally sustainable future.'"
The actions outlined are listed as follows:
- increase awareness of environmentally sustainable development
- create an institutional culture of sustainability
- educate for environmentally responsible citizenship
- foster environmental literacy for all
- practice institutional ecology
- involve all stakeholders
- collaborate for interdisciplinary approaches
- enhance capacity of primary and secondary schools
- broaden service outreach nationally and internationally
- maintain the movement
By May 2002, the declaration had been signed by 288 institutions, including 17 in Africa; 99 in Canada and the United States; 108 in Latin America and the Caribbean; 33 in Asia, the Middle East, and the South Pacific; and 31 in Europe and Russia. ULSF has reported that the document has provided inspiration for other similar official declarations in locations throughout the world, including Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada; and, Kyoto, Japan—home of the monumental Kyoto Treaty .
Programs have been developed at universities and colleges throughout the United States. One exemplary program was established at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. In an introduction to the Ball State plan, associate professor James Elfin of the Ball State Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, stated that, "If colleges and universities are leaders in the quest for knowledge, why can't they be leaders on the path to a sustainable future?...Academic institutions are regarded—rightly or wrongly—as vanguards for what is possible and encuring. They are perceived to be on the forefront of what society can attain. As an institution, the university endures over a long span of time—if successful, it can be imagined to last forever. In an earlier edition of The Declaration...architect William McDonough was asked how long sustainability will take. His reply: "It will take forever. That's the point.'" Ball State outlined an extensive plan with a list of Action Items, practical ways in which to implement a "greening" of the campus.
The list of 10 items are as follows:
- audits (three of them: one of campus environment, another of faculty expertise, and a third of needs of K–12 schools across the state of Indiana)
- campus bikeway system
- developing an environmental education resource center (in the meantime, a separate effort on campus has resulted in the creation of a field station and environmental education center, FSEEC)
- green issues awareness (or, "green facts" that would be distributed via various media on and off campus)
- retrofit or reconfiguration of the Central (District) Heating Plant
- adopting hybrid electric (or other energy-efficient) vehicles for the campus motor pool
- campus-wide recycling program (one has existed, but is not effectively run nor fully integrated with all campus operations)
- sustainability trunk show (to spread the word to larger publics outside the university community)
- incorporation of sustainability within the university core curriculum (or, general education program that is required by all students)
[Jane E. Spear ]
Environmental News Network. The Worldwatch Report: Campus Environmental Programs Spur Action. June 1, 1998 [cited June 2002]. <http://www.enn.com/features>.
Safe Climate. University of Buffalo: How to Shrink the University's Carbon Footprint While Reducing the Cost of Education. 1996 [cited June 2002]. <http://www.safeclimate.net/index>.
University Leaders for a Sustainable Future, 2100 "L" Street, NW, Washington, DC USA, 20037, 202-778-6133, Fax: 202-778-6138, <http://www.ulsf.org>